A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: October 2004


This election is for them (picture of a white soldier, a white mother and child). DON’T LET THEM DOWN! Strong defense and security, a commitment to protecting America, to protecting or families–Our President, our Commander in Chief George W. Bush is the strong and steady leader we need. Without your vote, he’ll be forced to step down and surrender his position to an upredictable and risky candidate with a completely different set of priorities for America.

Don’t surrender, President Bush! Never give in to al-Kerrida! You’re our Commander in Chief! Be strong, be strong and steady! And predictable!

(Quotation from a RNC that arrived at our home today. Sheesh.)

Struck and White

Geoff Pullum has a great anti-Struck and White rant, which he says is:

a horrid little compendium of unmotivated prejudices (don’t use ongoing), arbitrary stipulations (don’t begin a sentence with however), and fatuous advice (“Be clear”), ridiculously out of date in its positions on appropriate choices among grammatical variants, deeply suspect in its style advice and grotesquely wrong in most of the grammatical advice it gives.

Struck and White was (I think) the first book on writing style I ever read, and I fell in love–mostly, I think, because of White’s introductory essay. The advice “Omit needless words” and “Use the active voice” might be fatuous and arbitrary. Still, when I take the time to ask: Is this word needed? and “Should I be using the passive voice here?” my writing is clearer. And White told me something I didn’t know: that writing and reading can be a beautiful thing.

Snarky Bush joke

The post-modern presidency

[The senior Whitehouse aide] told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

From Without a Doubt, a NY Times Magazine article by Ron Suskind.

Bush or Kerry? One Canadian's view

Tim Bray recommends:

If you’re running a company and there’s a general perception that your CEO is [an expletive for fool], eventually it won’t matter that much whether he really is or isn’t; the perception will become an obstacle. And right now, the United States of America is facing that obstacle.

Bush-Kerry Debate (III)

People always want “knock-out blows” in a debate, but there weren’t any, of course. Bush usually sounded less desparate than he did in the first two debates; he always seems more intelligent when he’s calm. Kerry’s performance was exactly the same as in the first two debates: “presidential,” in a word. CBS’s instant poll of undecideds said a plurality thought Kerry had won the debate.

I could be wrong, but I think this debate shows that the right’s use of “liberal” as a scare word is dying. Bush, at least, didn’t seem to make any headway with it. Kerry as to the left of Ted Kennedy–hah! I don’t think anyone will buy that who’s not already a dittohead.

OK–I’ll predict that Kerry will beat Bush in the popular vote with approximately the same margin as Gore beat Bush in 2000. Whether he’ll win the electoral college vote remains to be seen.

Kennedy's inaugural address 1961

Fill in the blank, Mr. Bush:

  1. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of ________.
  2. ______________ [is] our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace.
  3. Let us never ____________ out of fear. But let us never fear to ____________.
  4. Let [us] formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of _______—and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of ___________.
  5. Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”—a struggle against the common enemies of man: ___________ , ___________ , ___________ , ___________, and ___________ itself.
  6. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what ______________________.

See Kennedy’s inaugural address 1961 for the answers.

What's cool about working for the Federal government

Having Columbus Day off. Grazie, Cristoforo!

Bush-Kerry Debate (II)

Watching this debate, I found myself much more interested in the horserace–who was winning? who was losing? It seemed clear to me that the President was on the defensive; he even sounded desparate to me (although he seemed to calm down during the last 20 minutes or so). Kerry seemed, well, presidential and wise. Both candidates wandered off a little too often and a little too far from the questions they were asked–but this is a problem that’s bothered me for 30 years or so. It seemed like President Bush was prepped to answer the question, ‘What has been your greatest mistake?’ but was not ready to answer the question he actually got–name three mistakes. He’s either pathologically unable to admit error, or sociopathologically guided by his poltical handlers to remain ‘steadfast’ at all costs. (He admitted to some bad political appointments–big deal).

I was glad that the audience was able to ask questions that seem less likely to come up if we expect a news reader or reporter: about abortion, about stem cell research. Even answering questions about health care and jobs is a bit different when you’re addressing an everyday citizen than when you’re addressing a reporter. After all, the citizen is likely to actually care about the answer; the reporter is more likely concerned about his or her reportorial role or ‘getting’ the candidate.

In any case, a clear choice. I took the dogs out for a walk today (if you know me, you know that’s very unusual). Around the block, I saw a dozen, maybe twenty Kerry-Edwards signs; only one Bush-Cheney sign. This probably doesn’t portend much (although I think our precinct voted about 50/50 for Bush and Gore in 2000).

(Update: my local precinct actually voted Gore: 434, Bush: 265 in 2000.)

Followup on the search for 'vice presidential debate'

A followup on post about searching for ‘vice presidential debate’, which Tim commented on.

First of all, I really wasn’t complaining about (say) Yahoo Search’s lack of results from the 2004 debates–it was just odd and a bit disorienting to be thrown back to 2000. I even clicked on an audio stream of the debate and got a ‘this stream is no longer available’ error message–it was then that I realized this was a link for the 2000 Lieberman-Cheney debate.

Second, I think Tim’s a bit wrong when says they don’t “just don’t grok the intertwingliness of the future which is now.” (That is, Tim says the web was not yet up-to-date, and the search results just reflected that). In fact, going back to the search today, I notice a couple of things that Yahoo groks that I didn’t see before. Yahoo Search shows me Yahoo News links to the debate coverage. Also, the sponsored links give me information, too, including one link which would have got me what I was looking for: a way to watch the debate on-line (I’d have had to pay, and I wasn’t going to do that, but it was relevant).

Usually, I don’t see sponsored links as very valuable to me, although I understand the value to the search engine companies. The main exception is when I’m looking for product information. But I learned something here: sponsored links (as well as the news links, of course) should be scanned when looking for more recent information.